The online etymology dictionary provides the following history of the word, WANT.
(For larger view of the inset above, click here.)
Whether the word is used as a noun or a verb, want is associated with a deficiency or lack of something needed or desired.
Ordinarily, we Want what we lack, not what we have already. An exception is if we are asked if we want any or all of our current belongings; we are really being asked if we desire to keep them because we anticipate that we will have a future use for them. Would we long for them if they became inaccessible to us? If we are asked, “Do you want these leftovers?” the question is really about whether we will want to eat those leftovers when we get hungry again. To answer affirmatively is to acknowledge that we will indeed be hungry again and that keeping the leftovers will help us avoid a future deficiency.
Even if the want is projected into the future, being in want of something is the same as feeling a lack of that thing and longing for it.
When we say, “I Want…” whether it is more money, a bigger house, a better job, etc., we are actually declaring that we do not yet have those things, that there is a lack/deficiency we wish to overcome.
Being in want does not attract an acquisition to us; instead, it motivates us to take actions towards it. Wanting has an emotional feeling which prompts physical action to remediate the discomfort.
However, if we do not want to DO whatever it takes to produce our desired outcome, no amount of wishing/hoping for an acquisition to manifest, or for a person, situation, or fact to change, will make it so.
Why is it, then, that sometimes, when we do take the necessary actions, our satisfaction still evades us?
Well, wanting something is equivalent to affirming its absence in our life. As we utter the phrase, “I Want…” this or that, we become, in our minds, the person who does not have this or that.
Having an internal story of lack can actually preclude attainment by blocking our internal receptivity, so that what is wanted remains out of reach. In other words, as long as we want something, we are inadvertently rejecting it. Ooops!
If a computer receives a command that does not compute it can become stuck in a loop. Likewise, being prompted by a want while our receptivity for that acquisition is blocked puts us in a psychological loop. Loopiness keeps us in a perpetual state of unfulfilled want.
Fortunately, practical application of the four-fold nature of Quadernity will help disentangle inner conflicts that stand in the way of achieving our heart’s desires.
Beginning at the beginning…
We are sourced. Immediately thereafter, we need to be re-sourced.
Resources Are What Re-Source Us
Deficiency of resources has a chemical marker; a corresponding e-motion that instigates motion. The emotions, themselves, cannot bring us the resources we Want; they merely prompt us to take actions towards pleasurable gains and away from painful losses.
We associate pleasure with resource gains and pain with resource losses, so says the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The neurotransmitter dopamine (DA) has a crucial role in motivational control – in learning what things in the world are good and bad, and in choosing actions to gain the good things and avoid the bad things.
Our innate wisdom monitors and regulates our bio-electro-chemical systems and is the prime provocateur of full-body cooperation in processes such as oxygenation, hydration, nutrition, elimination, and reproduction.
Contexualizing Four States of Being
- If we were starving (deficiency of resources), we would NEED to eat so badly that anything edible given to us would be eagerly accepted.
- When we are merely hungry (sufficiency of resources), we WANT to please our tastebuds and provide sufficient carbs to fuel our body. The feeling of wanting something can be subtle or powerful; jealousy and envy are emotional/chemical states that most of us have felt a time or two.
- Even if it is mealtime and we are somewhat hungry, when our bodies have plenty of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids in reserve (efficiency, due to excess resources), we CAN offer to share our own food with someone else more in need.
- When we merge with the integrated source of all potentially differentiable re-sources, the kinds of resources that pass linearly through our alimentary canal are of little concern to us. Ultimately, we dissociate from our individuality and Rest in the effortless proficiency of the immeasurable, non-linear I AM.
The four phrases, I Need, I Want, I Can, and I Am, are familiar from the parent page, Overcoming the Otherwise, to which this aside is attached. To provide relative orientations for these significant phrases, the Pragmatic Schematic (PS), a.k.a. Venn Diagram, serves us well:
These four phrases, I Need, I Want, I Can, and I Am, have wide-ranging applicability, as they directly derive from the four-fold fundamental element modeled by Quadernity.
The orientation of phrases in the graphic above indicates a progression of three states of being, from Deficiency (-1) on the left, Sufficiency (0) in the center, to Efficiency (+1) on the right. The trio is altogether transcended, above and beyond, by an immeasurable state of absolute Proficiency.
On the human scale, the four states align with our primary developmental phases: Youth, Teen, Adult, and Enlightened Elder, respectively. Find the bolded terms in the Pragmatic Schematic below.
When we are a young dependent we Need help to survive; left alone we would find ourselves Deficient of resources (left crescent above). On the other end of the spectrum, when we are a mature dependable person we Can save for the future, serve others, and solve problems; we have become Efficient (right crescent above).
In the mandorla between, the teen Wants satisfaction. Emotional satisfaction is aligned with the state of Sufficiency, centrally located in the graphic above. Like Goldilocks, teens wish to find a sweet spot that is “just right”, between too much and too little. They will reject parents who either over- or under-protect them and they will disrespect authorities who give them either too little or too much responsibility.
The Pragmatic Schematic, reprinted below, displays an alignment of these aforementioned motivations with the developmental phases during which they typically prevail.
Also included in the graphic above are indicators of physical reaction times. The extremely fast reaction time of our unconscious instincts (left crescent) and the extremely slow reactions of our conscious intentions (right crescent) flank the the central almond shape that contains the mid-paced, semi- or sub-conscious impulses.
In the transcendent area, above and beyond the interlocked circles, inspiration is experienced instantaneously.
The Need for Speed
With deficiencies (or excesses, in cases of toxic overload) come chemical changes in the body, which evoke emotional feelings. Our chemical e-motions direct the majority of our motions.
The more imperative the Need for recovering from deficits (or eliminating excess), the faster our reaction must be; consequently, slow conscious consideration of an action is minimized in matters where our instincts tell us that survival is at stake. Unconsciously, our survival instincts (left crescent above) cause nerves to rapid-fire, activating muscles to defensively contract or extend immediately, when an object hurtles in our direction.
Practicing basketball or piano transfers what is initially awkward, conscious behavior into smooth, automatic, or conditioned behavior. Transferring behavior from intentional/thoughtful to instinctive/automatic, by way of practice, speeds up our reaction time.
Automation can be employed to gain efficiency as described in the previous paragraph; however, when semi-conscious Wants become unconscious, or automatically-driven, Needs, it can also be dangerous. For example: the Wanted ‘high’ of a recreational drug can turn into the unwanted Needs of a full-blown chemical addiction.
The purposeful or accidental conditioning of behaviors into automaticity, wherein they gain the speed of instincts, which are by design and otherwise dedicated only to life-saving reactions, is the important topic explored in this Aside: Automation, for Better or Worse.
Our internal chemistry can provoke our entire body into action on behalf of our cells. This is important because cells cannot migrate (like animals do) in order to obtain resources. To solicit full-bodied assistance our cells send up a symptom of thirst when they are dehydrated, or a symptom of hunger when nutritional reserves are running low. We hardly recognize we are responding to internal cellular signals when we get a glass of water or a plate of food.
Chemically-driven impulses (in the central almond shape above) are not quite as fast as our instincts, though they are much faster than our intentional actions (right crescent).
Intentional, self-reflective consciousness allows us to exploit instinctual behaviors and override impulsive behaviors. This capacity can be either advantageous or deleterious. When one first consumes an addictive substance, entertains a provocative idea, or participates in some risky behavior, there is usually a distasteful sense, or an instinctual warning, that precedes what may possibly be, but only temporarily so, an enjoyable effect. Failure to heed the warning or imagine long term consequences, such as health risks, escalating Needs, financial ruin, shame, and pain to others, one may continue pursuit of immediate gratification while sliding toward the despair of addiction.
This human-specific capacity to use conscious choice to override basic and usually life-preserving instincts can at times be helpful; however, it is certainly not always the case. It depends on whether this capacity is employed by someone with an I Want impulse (such as that of a teenager seeking immediate gratification without regard to future repercussions), or by someone with an intentional I Can intention (such as that of an adult overcoming impulsivity to creatively improve circumstances), or someone with an I Am inspiration (such as that of a wise elder, who is free from both acquired instincts and conditioned impulses, and who can confidently take right actions and respond appropriately in most any given situation). Considering the fact that we spend so much time in I Need and I Want, it’s a good thing that very few of our automatic actions are subject to conscious override.
Between the phases of childhood dependency/deficiency and adult dependability/efficiency, teen brains are in the process of being rewired. Teens rarely utilize a long-view lens to anticipate future consequences when making decisions. Teenagers are reliably impulsive and impulsively unreliable.
Teens Want to acquire whatever will quickly deliver satisfaction with the least amount of effort. (Same goes for those corporate execs who receive seven-figure bonuses while immaturely shirking all moral responsibility.) Consider the mishaps that occur when powerful, but immature people, possessing I Want teenager tendencies, allow advanced technologies to be used for short-sighted profits without concern for environmental and human costs. To highlight just one poorly planned policy with disregarded consequences: we subsidize corporations who allow their toxic runoff to enter our waterways, dump islands of trash into our oceans, and produce air pollution that kills over five thousand people per day while childhood asthma reaches epidemic proportions.
Perhaps surprisingly, but I would say thankfully, very few of our personalactions are subject to conscious override.
Temptations of the Infamous Comfort Zone
In the image below, we find a declaration that our comfort zone is a threat our highest and best lives.
Why would wanting to remain comfortable in the state of Sufficiency thwart our personal development?
The neutral comfort zone (middle of Venn Diagram above) is where our sense of self feels secure. Unfortunately for us, our comfort zone corresponds to the I Want state, which is constantly tugged to assuage emotions of deficiency that chemically drive our bodily actions.
The pendulum swings from Deficiency (-1) to Efficiency (+1), and back again.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion says,
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
We tire of the pendulum swinging back and forth and Want to snuggle down in the comfort of Sufficiency, the sweet spot, midway between Deficiency and Efficiency. We Want to cease moving hither and thither to obtain resources. We Want to rest and to enjoy emotional satisfaction.
Unfortunately, by Wanting satisfaction and stability, we insure our dissatisfaction and the continued oscillation of actions and reactions.
One way to rid ourselves of emotional Wants is to acquire whatever it is that remedies the deficiency, as discussed above. However, that would require actions, and actions create reactions, which keep the pendulum swinging.
In an attempt to halt the pendulum swing, we may try any or all of these four options:
- We grow immune to the prompts of Wants. Those who numb-out like this end up inactivated and depressed.
- We grow accustomed to being in a chronic state of Want. The feeling of being in Want is normalized, and, because normal feels comfortable, this state of Want is automatically guarded by the unconscious instincts of homeostasis. Once identified with our daily discomforts we have no real desire to achieve relief. We saunter on, like a donkey who accepts the taunts of a carrot dangling just beyond reach.
- We train ourselves not to respond to the chemical triggers of Wanting. We override the discomfort in one of two ways. Either we rationalize that our pain is an acceptable trade off, suspecting other options to be even worse, or, on the more positive side, we convince ourselves that delayed gratification delivers a greater reward. Link here to a study that shows self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance.
- We give up all our beliefs and stories. Without them, we accept each moment as novel and interesting, without any desire to make it otherwise.
Stuck in the loop of Wanting, we cannot efficiently save for the future, solve problems or serve others. Our I Cans remain tethered to our I Wants and our I Needs. Not all who have reached the legal age of adulthood have learned to extricate their I Wants and I Needs from the dictates of deficiencies.
When deficient resources and/or challenges to our storied-self instigates pain and fear, our receptivity remains shut down to conserve what we have at hand. Unfortunately, this occurs at a time when we could really use our full capacity for efficiently solving problems.
We have heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Is the solution to simply adapt to lowered standards when things break or wear out or get lost?
This sentiment is not uncommon, however the strategy is flawed when it comes to dynamical systems. Concerning mechanical devices and our bodies, as well, making corrections/adjustments for wear and tear ought to be routine.
We must proactively inspect for nutritional deficiencies, misalignment of teeth and vertebrae, organic dysfunction, etc., in order to make corrections before painful, inconvenient breakdowns occur.
When pain does arise, we are often already in severe deficiency, making it even more difficult to expend scarce resources to recover. Regardless, we are forced to react in order to regain the neutral status of our comfort zone.
Breakthrough Rather than Breakdown
Reluctantly using resources to prevent a break-down is one thing. What is truly uncommon is investing resources to facilitate a break-through.
When we efficiently manage our resources, we accrue a reserve. By using some of our excess, it does not pull us all the way down into deficiency.
When our resources are plentiful and our stories are unchallenged, we experience a state of pleasure/love, and our receptors are open. Things flow efficiently to and from us; we are creative and can enjoy the richness of life. In this state, we attract ever more resources. With abundance, we Can save (memories, lessons, skills, friendships, belongings) for the future, we can solve problems and we can serve others.
Only with powerful intentionality can we transcend the Sufficiency of our comfort zones. Intellectual and/or inspirational intervention is usually necessary before the I Can will go against the grain to expand and enhance capabilities.
The I Can state is one of Efficiency, achieved by the mature person who has invested attention and directed actions toward developing capacities that compound over time, rather than acquiring whatever quells the appetite in the moment. (If this sounds familiar, it echoes our previous comparison of neutral vs. positive goals.) Having more than what is currently demanded allows us to convert some of our resources into those that are more likely to compound.
Our I Am transcends and includes the other three life “spaces”, as seen below, and calls us to fulfill our true purpose, to deliver the gift that we came here to give the world, and to advance human evolution. When we are consistently in the advanced state of I Can the calling of our soul to fulfill its highest purpose becomes increasingly insistent.
Mastery of the emotions by the intellect prepares us for mastery of our I Can (what we can do) by our I Am (who we are to be).
We are learning how to take the reigns from our I Needs and our I Wants and give them over to the I Can of our I Am.